Here's some fantastic news for people with super-busy schedules: You can improve your health just 10 minutes at a time. Taking a few 10-minutes walks spread throughout the day every day makes a difference. Not only is it good for your physical health, it also positively impacts your mood and mental health.
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"Walking is a fantastic exercise for several reasons: The two biggest are that you can do it anywhere and it is free," says Mollie Millington, a London-based personal trainer. It's low-impact, can help keep your heart and lungs strong and maintain your mobility as you age, she says.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity (like walking) a week. That evens out to about 20 minutes each day, which can be broken down into two 10-minute chunks. But that's just the minimum! Aim for 300 minutes a week and throw in at least two full-body strength-training sessions to reap even more benefits.
Health Benefits of 10-Minute Walks
Ten minutes isn't a huge time commitment (that's the point!), but those minutes really add up over the course of the day. The physical health benefits of 30 minutes of walking each day are numerous:
One November 2017 study from the journal Circulation even found that walking just might lower your risk of early death from all causes. Plus, taking regular walks also helps to maintain bone density, according to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, which decreases your risk of fractures. This is a particularly valuable benefit for older women, who are at higher risk of osteoporosis.
All that in a shorter amount of time than you probably spend on social media!
Read more: 20 Reasons to Go for a Walk Right Now
Walk Your Way to Weight Loss
Walking expends energy, so the more you walk, the more calories you burn. Your exact caloric burn depends on your weight and intensity. For example, at a rate of 15 minutes per mile, a 185-pound person burns 67 calories walking for 10 minutes, while a 155-pound person burns 55 calories and a 125-pound person burns 45 calories.
Want to take it up a notch? Power walking for 10 minutes (or using Nordic ski poles) increases the number of calories you burn. According to Harvard Health Publishing, a 185-pound person burns 96 calories race walking (a pace greater than 13 minutes per mile) for 10 minutes, a 155-pound person burns 81 calories, and a 125-pound person burns 65 calories.
While walking is fantastic for your health, don't forget that in order to lose weight, you still need to burn more calories than you consume — so a healthy, reduced-calorie diet is crucial for weight-loss success. And for a fully-rounded workout routine, add at least two strength-training sessions a week to encourage weight loss and build lean muscle.
Read more: What Your Walking Speed Says About Your Health
Get Started 10 Minutes at a Time
Making a habit of taking 10-minute walks works well for people who've been inactive or who aren't strong enough for prolonged or strenuous exercise. It's also perfect for people who are short on time and can't fit in a longer session.
"For most people, setting aside 10 minutes a day is an attainable goal," says Millington. "You can take a walk around the block at lunch time, or walk in place while watching the evening news."
Millington also suggests meeting up with friends at the park, or taking a lap of the mall if the weather is bad. Eventually, those 10-minute walks will become a healthy daily habit.
"As you add walking into your daily routine, you will find it becomes easier. You may even get to the point where you want to do run-walk intervals to keep things interesting," Millington says.
While long, exhausting workouts can be intimidating, nothing is easier than committing yourself to just 10 minutes — and all you need is a pair of comfortable shoes.
"Starting off, walk at a pace that feels good," says Millington. "You can use the 'talk test' to determine if your pace is suitable once you feel more confident: If you can carry on a conversation without needing to catch your breath, you can try walking a little faster. A good pace is where you can say one line of your address but not much more. If you find you can't even say that, slow down a bit."
And if you need help with staying motivated, a fitness tracker is a great way to hit your daily step goals. Despite what you may have heard about 10,000 steps a day, a May 2019 study from JAMA Internal Medicine found 7,500 steps a day is a better goal to shoot for. Just make sure you're walking for at least 10 minutes at a time at a decent pace (i.e. not a causal stroll).
"Most people have apps on their phones to count steps or you can buy an inexpensive activity tracker," says Millington. "I know when I started counting my steps, it made me more motivated to beat my previous day's count. We also set up challenges with friends for friendly competition!"
Read more: 35 Creative Ways to Reach 10,000 Steps a Day
- The Primary Care Companion to the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry: Exercise for Mental Health
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans
- Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice: Daily walking reduces visceral adipose tissue areas and improves insulin resistance in Japanese obese subjects
- American Cancer Society: Get Moving to Help Reduce Your Risk of Breast Cancer
- Harvard Health Publishing: Walking: Your steps to health
- Hypertensio: Effect of Morning Exercise With or Without Breaks in Prolonged Sitting on Blood Pressure in Older Overweight/Obese Adults.
- Circulation: Accelerometer-Measured Physical Activity and Sedentary Behavior in Relation to All-Cause Mortality: The Women's Health Study.
- American Journal of Medicine: Walking is related to bone density and rates of bone loss.
- Harvard Health Publishing: Calories burned in 30 minutes for people of three different weights
- JAMA Internal Medicine: Association of Step Volume and Intensity With All-Cause Mortality in Older Women